Research Musings:

Just a quick one tonight:

I’ve been continuing to read up on what happens when theatre companies decide to do an early modern play by someone other than Shakespeare, and I came across something I didn’t expect today. This is a quotation from Pascale Aebischer’s article ‘Shakespearean Heritage and the Preposterous “Contemporary Jacobean” Film: Mike Figgis’s Hotel‘ in Shakespeare Quarterly: 

‘In spite of their apparent rejection of Shakespearean nostalgia,  [Susan] Bennett argues [in Performing Nostalgia], the Jacobean revival productions are less transgressive, less oppositional than their harnessing of “the Jacobean” initially suggests, for the imperfect past they invoke is “nonetheless one which can help us legitimise our own defective present. The designation’s function, even as it marks transgression and dissidence, points to a continuous and repetitive history, the inevitability of which we can do no more than accept.” Despite the difference in tone that sets late twentieth-century “Jacobean” productions apart from Shakespeare productions at the RSC and the National Theatre, the impulse behind both is nostalgic. […] A glance through reviews of Jacobean revivals by the RSC confirms the accuracy of Bennett’s analysis: there is much self-congratulation at having made the effort to offer a non-Shakespeare production in the first place and a wistful acknowledgment of the relevance of Jacobean themes to present crises’ (282).

And once again, research slaps me in the face and scrambles everything I thought I knew. I guess I should get used to this, right? I fell into the trap; I assumed that studying someone besides Shakespeare was cool and hip and off the beaten track. In some ways it is, of course, as evidenced by all the dead-ends I’m hitting in research. But it’s so easy to think that by resisting Shakespeare one is doing something completely different, and that is obviously not the case. These playwrights–Shakespeare, Middleton, Rowley, Marlowe, Jonson–all worked in very similar contexts, and while their differences are definitely important, their similarities are just as significant. I still think it’s ridiculous that every other playwright from the early modern period gets compared to Shakespeare, but maybe the actual act of comparison isn’t at fault.



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